Not to be outdone by Youview, Netgem has decided to add a few games to their Freeview TV service. These games can be accessed directly from the TV Guide and are played using the remote control.
A new Games tab can be seen from the main menu, taking you directly to a selection of games on offer, all of which are free (for now, unless they decide to implement pay to play like Sky did) Like the Youview games they are similar in scope to the Newgrounds Adobe Flash games of the time, but rendered in HD and played using the remote control.
Very similar to Outrun where you have to steer a car around the track with the objective to get to the finish line within the time limit, avoiding the obstacles and navigating the bending track.
Rowing 2 Sculls Challenge
A rowing game where you have to press the OK button when your boat passes over a green circle to boost. No steering or button mashing required, you just press a single button. Despite this timing is crucial, especially on the later levels, it also does not help the framerate takes a hit the more opponents there are on screen, and the remote isn’t exactly tactile so you have to compensate by pressing earlier.
Well its just Car Rush but with water. I guess this is similar in concept to Nintendo’s Wave Rush, or Namco’s Aqua Jet.
Slalom Ski Simulator
This ones a bitch to play, mainly due to the uneven frame rate which makes it difficult to anticipate the distance of the upcoming flag. Again its similar to , Cool Boarders, 1080 Snowboarding or Ski Free, where you have to steer and pass through the flags in order to progress to the next level. Very difficult as mentioned above due to the framerate and unresponsive controls, could be remedied by having three lives instead of a game over every time you miss a flag.
Set in space, you have to guide your ship using the arrow keys to navigate through the gaps. If you ship hits a wall, it is destroyed and the game is over, you only get one life.
A basketball games where you have to press the Ok button when the basketball indicator reaches in the middle, this game is reliant on your reaction time. Although you can select your character, I don’t think it has any affect on the game play itself.
Here you have to guide Santa around the obstacle in order to collect the dropped gifts. A star can be collected with will allow Santa to move faster
Build a city block, trying to keep it as straight as possible by pressing the OK button. You have to drop the block in the centre of the screen to get the best score.
Nugget Seeker Adventure
Like DigDug, you have to mine your way through the level, collecting the gold nuggets whilst avoiding the enemy diggers who will attack.
Pacman with rats
Objective here is to split the ball by pressing the Ok button, but you have to avoid the balls landing on you, which is easier said than done. I think the end goal is to make the balls as small as possible, but I’ve never managed to get past the first level.
Your typical snake game, eat/collect the dots to increase your score and the size of your snake.
A game where you need to aim and shoot the onscreen skeets, very difficult to aim and score.
A duck hunt clone, also this one has the controls intended for a PC keyboard, as it references using the spacebar to shoot. Different birds move at faster speeds which makes it harder to aim and shoot. You also get a bonus for how quick it takes to shoot a duck.
A flag memory/knowledge games where you have to match the country to their respective flag.
It’s a solitaire game alright
Ric Tac Toe
You can adjust the grid size from three options 3×3, 5×5 or 7×7. Two players can play, but you have to use the same remote and take turns.
A checkers game
2048 cuteness edition
Similar to that 2048 game on PlayWorks but with a bunch of animals and that damn ukulele music in the background that sounds like your watching a makeup tutorial.
Objective is to throw the dice with the aim of getting to the finish line first. Upto two players can play, and upto 6 players can be on screen at one, with the remaining being controlled by the CPU. This is one of the best games available on the service purley for the simple gameplay.
Snakes & Ladders
Classic snakes and ladders game, can be played upto 2 players, with 6 players in total being controlled by the CPU.
So its a good start and a nice addition for Netgem’s TV service, but the main let-down is the lack of horse power from the hardware. I’m not sure what SoC Netgem use but it seems to struggle with the more demanding games. The main issue is the remote, this just not designed for gaming with its stiff keys and hollow build quality, a wireless controller might be a better addition.
A Freeview service with a few additional services bundled alongside the regular Freeview offering, making full use of IPTV to deliver streamed TV channels in HD.
The service is very similar to Youview provided by BT or TalkTalk (Of which the latter now offers Netgem as an alternative to Youview) in that it melds Freeview and on-demand (Or catch-up services) with one interface, ideal for an alternative to smart TVs. Live TV channels are also offered and is one of the standout features of the service, whilst this requires a subscription fee – typically £15 a month, or £10 if you have a bundled internet plan with a service provider.
History of Netgem
Not many people are aware Netgem offer a subscription TV service of sorts Netgem was previously known in the Freeview market for the iPlayer (before the name was squired by the BBC for their on-demand service), the Netgem iPlayer was an advanced internet-connected Freeview box that contained an internet browser and a basic media player, which put it leagues ahead of other Freeview boxes of its era.
Some internet service provers will offer Netgem TV as part of the service, designed to be an alternative to subscription service from Sky or Virgin. In reality, many of the channels are different in scope and serve a niche interest. There’s no Sky Sports or Movies, and many common subscription channels are missing. MTV, and Comedy Central make an appearance, but Syfy, Discovery, Sky Showcase, and GOLD are missing from the lineup.
You can also purchase the box standalone which functions as a typical Freeview HD smart device, but this does not include the streaming channels. It does allow full access to the streaming apps (an additional subscription is required as usual) and the Freeview Play catchup services.
Also unlike a typical Youview box, the Netgem box is not classed as a PVR as it contains only a single tuner and lacks a hard disk drive. With it is intended to be used for catch-up services instead. Despite this, the box is capable of recording by connecting a USB drive to the USB port located at the rear of the box so you get the very basics of PVR’s
Appearance-wise the box maintains a low profile look, with an LED strip that indicates the power status of the box. Sizewise It’s similar in footprint to the basic BT Youview box
Typical connections include Ethernet, HDMI output (Capable of supporting a 4KTV at 50FPS, so it mus the HDMI 2.0 capable.
When powered up for the first time you will be taken through the set up process which will search for channels, check and download for updates (If you connect the ethernet cable before powering on the receiver will automatically install before going through the install) You will also be prompted to set up a PIN number as a few of the streaming channels require a PIN to access, depending on the content being shown. After all is done you will be notified of the Netgem TV apps for Android/iOS and will then be taken to the main TV interface.
One complaint is the lack of RF output or a proper loop-through. This assumes that you will be exclusively using Freeview with the Netgem TV and whilst that might apply to the majority of people, some may prefer to loop the output for the TV.
One reason for this is to emulate a dual tuner PVR, with the Netgem box busy recording, the TV is free to tune into a Freeview channel so long as it can receive a Freeview channel. This is a good consideration considering the Netgem box only features a single tuner, meaning it can only record one channel at a time (With some exceptions, being it can record two channels if they are on the same multiplex)
Of course, you could add a splitter into the setup, and split the signal between the Netgem box and the TV, but you live in a weak signal area this could affect your reception unless you invest in a signal booster.
Although in my case since it was connected to a computer monitor it wasn’t so much of an issue, but just a weird oversight if you wanted to integrate it into a smart TV setup.
Netgem had developed and built its own TV Guide interface, which integrates internet streaming channels and content with the Freeview platform. It’s very Youview-like in its presentation and its graphics-heavy with TV show thumbnails being used to show currently broadcast programs and recommendations.
The home screen features a tab-like an interface which gives access to the different genres of channels, with a dedicated section for movies, sports, kids, documentaries, lifestyle, news
You can see what is being currently broadcast, what is upcoming later that day per channel & any on-demand content that is related to the genre.
Coming out of standby takes a few seconds to start up, likely due to the box entering a low power state during standby. Unlike Youview there is no way to adjust this.
The onscreen keyboard is not QWERTY based, and I didn’t have much luck plugging in a USB keyboard, nor can you use the remote number pad to type anything in, instead it’s all done through the directional arrow buttons and pressing OK to select a letter. This is nothing but time consuming and makes it a chore to search
In contrast, the original Sky Guide allowed you to type text using the remote when using the A-Z listing or when using interactive, it’s surprising how such a basic feature is overlooked. My guess (And this applies to most other ‘smart’ TV platforms) is they would rather what they recommend in your feed rather than find and discover content yourself.
EPG / TV Guide
The area where all your Freeview channels are listed, although it seems to be tacked on as an afterthought. Whilst it does its job, I feel there’s a lot of screen space wasted since it will display the program synopsis at the top, along with a heavily compressed JPEG that’s related to the program. It would have been nice to have the option to choose from a more detailed guide that would show more channels on the screen per page. Kind of like the old Sky Guide which displayed a row of 10 channels per page, Netgem only shows 7.
There is a dedicated button on the remote to get to the EPG, so that’s a nice feature. If only Youview had the same design. Channel logos are displayed when connected to the internet, like how Freesat or Tivo displays them.
There’s also a search and scan banner of sorts, which kind of reminds me of the XMB from the PlayStation 3. You can cycle through the various channels and view the schedule whilst watching a live TV channel.
The bunded remote feels on the cheap side and has a clicky feel to the buttons. A red LED light lights up when a button is pressed to indicate it is working. There are dedicated buttons for Freeview Play, and another for My TV which takes you to the home screen. There are a few buttons that take you directly to the channel list, EPG and the search function. There is also a dedicated button that opens Amazon Alexa, but it just tells how to pair the Alexa app to your device. I can’t see any microphone on the remote itself so I’m not sure if you can even speak commands using the remote.
TV volume control is not supported, instead, the volume will always control the volume level of the box. Whilst this makes it ideal for use with a computer monitor, people that watch on a regular TV many prefer the remote to control their TV or AV receiver / Soundbar
Apps and OnDemand
Freeview Play is integrated into the service, so you get full access to BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Demand5, 4oD Pop Player, and Horror Bites.
There are a few other streaming applications available that are not part of the Freeview Play like YouTube, Amazon Prime, Rakuten, BritBox & AcornTV. These do require an additional subscription, they are not included in your Netgem subscription if you have one. Plex is also available, which includes a few free streaming TV channels But no Netflix which is a strange omission, since nearly every smart device has Netflix on it, including an old Sony Blu-ray player I have from 2016. Guess I can’t watch Cuties in 4K or race-baiting documentaries on this box…
This is one of the unique features of the Netgem TV box is the live TV channels offered through the service, many of which consist of IPTV-exclusive streaming channels, although there are a few known channels included like MTV. They appear in the main EPG/TV Guide as any other TV channel and are quick to tune in with very little buffering time needed. Most channels broadcast in full HD, aside from the handful of HD channels Freeview HD offers. Still, there’s no ITV2/3/4 HD or E4 HD, which are missing from the lineup and would be useful to have.
These channels are featured in the 900 section of the EPG, which seems like there shunted off at the back end of the EPG, compared to the Youvuew TV service where the subscription channels occupy the 300/400/500 section. Perhaps these were reserved by Youview and Netgem had no access to this section? I know the 700 section is reserved for radio channels, and the 800 is used for channels from other transmitters that the box will sometimes pick up. I cant see why the 300/400 section could not be used, since this isn’t a Youview vox and it never will be, so it makes no sense blocking off these channel numbers, plus the 900 section is nearly full with only a few blank channel numbers in between.
Adding to the selection, you have also access to the MHEG streaming channels location from 250 – 299. They take a few seconds to load but the channels do work. VisionTV below works fine, if a little slow.
Not related but what is with this MHEG screen? looks like a Windows 9x BSOD
As established, the unit only performs the very basic PVR functions, it lacks an internal hard disk, so in order to enable PVR functionality, an external USB drive must be connected to the rear USB port. This can be either a flash memory-based memory stick with 32GB or higher capacity or an external hard disk.
The single tuner will also be a limitation, although if you have a modern smart TV you can emulate a dual tuner PVR by recording on the Netgem box and watching live on the smart TV, or connecting USB external storage to the TV and having that record also, which can act as a second tuner.
Unlike a PVR, the Netgem does not buffer or actively record TV, this means you cannot rewind TV, instead you must press pause which will activate the buffered recording. If you are used to PVR’ from Virgin/Sky or Youview or any basic Freeview PVR this will be a disadvantage since those models will actively record the live TV broadcast, enabling you to pause and rewind at any time. This also means you can’t quick rewind, so if you miss a piece of dialog or see to see something quickly again, you cannot skip back a few seconds.
Sadly you cannot record the streaming channels, only the Freeview (DTT) delivered channels. The good news is a lot of these channels have their content available on-demand but with a snag, you have to sit through the adverts.
Settings & Configuration
HDMI-CEC is supported if your TV or AVR supports it, and it will turn on with your TV when selected in your TV’s HDMI menu.
The box also features Wi-Fi built-in, although ethernet can be used instead.
Current Software: 8.4.21-67 (Sat, 19 Feb)
TV guide listings can be viewed through the smartphone app. You can cast channels through using the screencast feature which will detect compatible devices. This seems to be limited to Android based devices, and the Netgem box, as it picked up my Sony Android TV and a couple of Google assistants.
Screenshots are taken with a Sony Xperia 5 II
Performs poorly as a PVR, which seems to be tacked on feature. But then again it’s not really designed for such. Netgem also does not have a PVR-based box.
Some UI features have been overlooked, like the channel number missing from the search and scan banner.
The remote feels too clicky and cheap
Can’t seem to disable the PIN protection completely, some channels will always require it which gets annoying
The streaming channels are reminiscent of the various FTA channels you used to get on Sky back in the mid-2000s, where some were very niche and interest-specific. That said the picture quality is fantastic on these channels.
Honestly, this would be much improved if they had a PVR option, something that acts as a good alternative to Youview considering this service is marked and often bundled with FTTP internet service provided. However, the trend here is everything must be in the cloud as it’s trendy and modern. Fuck the cloud I’d say, I want the content available locally to watch, not disabled due to some crappy servers going down or because of some backward copyrights policy.
Pace was one of the main suppliers of ONdigital receivers, having supplied boxes since the official launch on the 15th November 1998.
There are a few differences in contrast with the Nokia 9850T that I looked at previously, the bootup process behaves differently with the Pace flashing its front panel display for a few seconds before displaying the time (12:00, until it loads the time from the DVB-SI). Another observation is the middle colon (:) on the display will flash when a button is pressed on the remote. This didn’t happen on the Nokia 9850T, even though it is documented in the instruction book.
The front LED display also flashes when coming out of standby, and like the Nokia it takes a few seconds to come out of standby.
Onwards there isn’t much difference, the software is mostly the same as the Nokia, its had the OnMail, and ONrequest update which enabled the guide menu to be accessed.
In terms of performance, it seems to be a bit more responsive compared to the Nokia
Hidden menu & Software Information
Like on the Nokia, a hidden menu exists that shows additional software information about the box.
To access, Press menu Select option 7 (technical information) Then select option 2 (manufacturer data) Press text-guide-text-guide
The box didn’t come with a remote, thankfully I had the ONmail remote which has the ability to control the box but requires to be programmed at first. This is because each manufacturer used their own remote control design and IR codes. To set the remote code: Hold the Red and Select button for around four seconds, then type in the code Pace – 905 Nokia – 901
Inside the box
Lets see what powers the DTR730…
At the heart we have the ST20-TP4 processor, this seems to be a variation of the ST20-TP3 used in the digibox’s of the time and appears to be clocked at 50Mhz. This contrasts to the ARM Texas Instruments chip found in the Mediamaster 9850T, which was an ARM clocked at 40Mhz. It is unfair to compare both on the clock speeds alone, as they are of different instruction set with the Nokia being of the ARM family and the Pace belonging to the ST20 family of processors. Still the Pace feels a lot more responsive compared to the Nokia, although both are sluggish navigating the menus compared to more modern boxes.
An MPEG2 decoder is provided off-chip, very similar to what Pace used in their digibox’s of the time. At this point many of the components were not as integrated, so the Cpu and decoder were still separate chips. I’d say this is the same decoder they used on their Digibox’s, and the IPTV receivers (the DSL4000).
Like the Nokia, the tuner seems to be on its own board and is connected in a similar fashion. Here you have the tuner, RF modulator and the DVB-T demodulator. Here is provided by LSI Logic, whilst the Nokia used a Motorola processor. These would have belonged to the same generation and would have lacked 8K modulation support, meaning these boxes cannot receive modern Freeview broadcasts. As both the Nokia and pace follow this modular-like design for the tuner, I’d guess this was a design consideration, and the mainboards were intended to be adapted easily for satellite or cable use, by separating the tuner module from the mainboard. I also wonder if this is similar to the hardware Canal+ had used for their equipment, just fitted with satellite tuners instead. Pace, Philips, and Nokia did make boxes for Canal+, who also designed the Mediahighway and Mediaguard components that ONdigital used, so it may be the case they just adapted the box design for ONdigital.
Underneath is the common interface slot, which is a PCMCIA slot for additional addon board like a conditional access interface, or to add an additional decoder.
Back in the day there were rumors of a satellite tuner being added as a sidecar to allow for them to receive ONdigital broadcasts, this never materialized and as such the slot remained redundant. Compared to the common interface on the Digibox, it’s a lot smaller but uses the same PCMCIA interface suggesting this was for conditional access use only.
The modem is integrated onto the mainboard unlike the Nokia which was a separate module, it looks to be the same hardware as the Nokia however. Its certainly a lot quieter as it does not make a click when the modem is accessed like the Nokia does (You can hear it when you try to dial into the ONmail service.
The back panel is fairly typical of ONdigital boxes, with dual scarts, audio out (No digital audio like the Sony or Nokia) and a serial port for the ONmail remote.
Flash memory chips, each chip has 2MB of capacity for a total of 6MB. Rumor is there are two partitions, 2MB solely for Canal+ (Possibly the operating system itself?) and 4Mb for ONdigital’s resident applications.
The main DRAM, I’d say there’s around 2 or 4MB of system RAM, assuming there aren’t additional chips on the underside of the board. Not much information on these can be found online.
Some sort of SDRAM for the MPEG2 decoder, appears to be 1MB in size for each chip for a total of 2MB, according to this site (assuming I’ve read this correctly)
A look at the channel list, seems the box was able to retain some of its original channel list, but was rescanned at some point
Using the DigDebug and loading the appropriate configuration file, we are able to see the test process for the DTR730. Here there are options to:
Test and clear the flash memory did not want to do this since this will erase the current channel list
Enable/disable the test patterns (A color bar is displayed on screen)
Test the Mediaguard smartcard (If it’s inserted and detectable)
Turn on/off different SCART signals
Test the modem and have it dial out (Didn’t seem to work on my box)
Test the front LED display, you can either set it to be blank or light up all segments on the display
BT has been trying to reinvent its TV service by overhauling the software and recently have introduced new hardware, the BT TV Box Pro. Content is mainly provided by NOWtv, In addition to its own set of subscription channels (AMC and BT Sport).
Like the previous Youview box, the TV Box Pro makes use of the users aerial to deliver Freeview channels, with the subscription channels coming through the BT Broadband connection. If the customer does not have a working aerial, BT can install one for a charge of £40
From NOWtv comes the Sky basic channels, MTV, Comedy Central, Nat Geo and GOLD. An odd section considering you only get one MTV channel, where is MTV Base/Music/Classic? Or any of the other Discovery channels?
Funny thing is BT offered its own bundle of TV channels ( Previously BT Max, now classic entertainment package, which has now been phased out) which continued to offer channels that were not in NOWtv, which mainly deals with Sky channels with a few extra third party channels.
Its clear that the service is tailored to those who don’t watch much linear TV, or for those who prefer streaming / On Demand since BT it a telecommunications based company.
The BT TV Pro Box
The Pro box is quite wide compared to the previous model and bares a resemblance to the Sky Q box. It’s very low profile with no standby LED or indicators, instead the BT logo lights up purple when out of standby and there are three LED’s which indicates when the box is recording and if there are any network connection issues. Whereas previous models were manufactured by Humax, the TV Pro Box was produced by Sagemcom, who have also supplied BT with their Homehubs, now known as SmartHubs.
The Youview software is in full use here, and benefits from the improved hardware along with the supported applications.
4K output is supported through the use of on demand, and the BT Sport Ultimate channel, which offers sport events in 4K. This is not BT’s first box to support 4K or HEVC, but is now a standard option since the previous models have now been discontinued, except for the basic non-recordable box. HDR is also supported, but I’ve not been able to find which type of HDR that BT use (HLG, Dolby Vision, HDR10?)
WiFi: A first for BT and Youview boxes which have always lacked the support of Wifi, likely due to the issues of delivering the multicast IPTV channels (Although Powerline wasn’t any much better in that regard). Wi-Fi is only functional when the ethernet cable is disconnected from the unit, and only 5GHZ networks can be connected.
In terms of performance it works well, but the multicast channels will break up on three signal bars or less, depending on the throughput of the broadband router. Meanwhile on demand service will work since they adjust the bit rate and the resolution depending on your bandwidth.
Overall if your gonna use Wifi, ensure the box is relatively close to the router, or just use ethernet.
Bluetooth Remote: Like Sky Q and the Virgin 360 remotes, the BT remote now connects via Bluetooth instead of IR, and features a microphone hole that has yet to be activated. This gives the possibility of giving voice commands to the remote to control the interface.
Quad Tuners: Up to four Freeview channels can be recorded simultaneously, along with two IP subscription channels. That’s a total of six channels with four Freeview and two subscription.
Good to Know
The box retains the Youview software and apps, so you will be able to upgrade with ease. Familiar services like BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Britbox and NowTV are all supported, with some being bundled through TV packages.
Multiroom streaming: You still cannot watch recordings to another box, like to a regular BT TV box, nor can you stream programmes to another device like a Tablet, Smart TV or your Smartphone. Virgin already pioneered this by the time the V6 had launched, where most recorded programms could be watched on another Tivo box, or a smart device (except for a smart TV, a device you actually want to watch shows on. i don’t know why operators think I want to watch my shows on a 8-12 inch tablet screen?
I don’t see why this cannot be offered, My Humax Freeview recorder lets you stream recorded programmes over your own network using DLNA, allowing you to use any comparable DLNA enabled deice (Xbox and PlayStation consoles have support for this, and most network enabled TV and Blu-ray players have a DLNA client included)
Really if you are after a proper multiroom service, you need to look for Sky Q or Virgin 360 service, or if you don’t like subscription services, the Humax FVP-5000T or the HDR-2000T paired with the Humax Expresso is a better solution, and works on any ISP. The Humax solution includes your regular Freeview Play services, along with popular pay services such as Netflix/Amazon Prime.
PlutoTV, VEVO, Discovery+, Disney+ and Acorn TV are services that are missing from the service, and Youtube/Odysee/Rumble are also not offered for web streaming.
Channels & Services offered
NOWtv Entertainment: Contains all of your basic Sky channels, along with MTV/GOLD/SYFY/Comedy Central. You can watch both the channels or watch the box sets via on demand (Some programs like Veep are only available via live TV, and are not on demand, and I have no idea why?)
NOWtv Cinema: All of Sky Movie channels
NOWtv Sports: All of Sky Sports channels with political propaganda shoved in. At least you can record and fast forward through the adverts (For now)
BT Sport: BT premier sports channel packages, features WWE/UFC/Boxing and Soccer. Like Sky Sports it comes with very political adverts shoved in between
BT TV Store: A store to purchase TV shows and movies, some are offered as part of a subscription.
AMC: A bonus movie channel by BT that comes bundled if you have either BT Sport or one of the NOWtv packages
Box Nation: Comes bundled with BT Sport, just boxing in glorious SD resolution
NOWtv Hayu: Not a TV channel but a reality TV boxset service, adds the Kardashian’s to your NOWtv collection
BT TV’s store, where TV show boxsets can be purchased and streamed. Personally I prefer to purchase the physical versions o these show, like a Blu-Ray.
Lack of ITV2/3/4 in HD and E4/More4 HD is a major omission, considering these channels could delivered over BT’s IP network and are considered to be popular channels, they could be a popular perk to BT TV customers considering the NOWtv offerings can be had on the standalone service.
There’s also a few channels offered in the BT Entertainment package, which is a legacy package no longer offered by BT in an effort to move customers onto their NOWtv packages. Channels in this package include Discovery, TLC, Watch, Alibi, Eden and Animal Planet. You cannot subscribe to both the entertainment and the NOWtv package simultaneously, which makes no fucking sense.
Whist the box itself is a nice upgrade and brings it more in line with Virgin 360 and Sky Q, if your looking for a complete TV service, go look somewhere else because BT TV packages are not really tailored for that.
The mobile app
Running on a Sony Xperia 5II
Setting up the app for first time use. If there are multiple boxes on the network you have the option to choose which box you want to use. Once set up you can set recordings remotely and view TV listings and On demand events from BT.
Recordings that are saved on the box appear but cannot be watched on the device itself, You must watch on the box itself. BT TV Store shows and events can be rented and streamed on the device itself, regardless if the user is connected to their BT Broadband or if they are using another provider.
The Nokia Mediamaster 9850T was one of the first ONdigital receivers released to the market, alongside the Philips and Pace models, and one of the first digital terrestrial receiver that Nokia had made.
Like other ONdigital boxes, the 9850T uses SECA Media-highway for its middleware, alongside the MediaGuard conditional access system. The box also has a PCMCIA slot for future digital interfaces, likely to enable upgrades. The front panel design is similar to the other models of the time, all boxes had a Power, Select, Menu and directional buttons to allow basic control of the receiver without a remote, and a 4 digit display which would show the channel number and the time in standby
Lifting the Lid
The tuner is implemented on a separate module away from the mainboard, it seems the board is based off the 9800/9700 satellite receiver, and when it came to adapting the design for the 9850T, Nokia added the DVB-T tuner module as a separate module. This module is soldered in and cannot be removed.
Another shot of the main CPU and MPEG2 decoder, the Flash and RAM chips can be seen to the left side
The modem module itself
Vs Pace Di4000
Vs Pace 2500S5
As this was one of the first DTT receivers on the market, the box seems to be quite primitive compared to the later Freeview receivers with its lack of a full EPG and more importantly 8K tuner support, however in the ONdigital era the Nokia was considered to be the more reliable and supported box (The Sony and Toshiba models did not get MHEG support) and there are reports of the 9850T being able to lock onto weaker signals better than its Philips or Pace counterpart.
The addition of the digital audio connecter would have been the main distinction from the other ONdigital boxes besides the Sony, since they were the only models to feature this.
Nokia would later go on to continue creating DTT receivers for the Freeview service, with models like the 221T or the 121T, which had an unorthodox and unique design compared to the traditional 9850T. Unfortunately Nokia exited the Freeview market after 2005, along with its satellite receivers and focused on mobile phones before Microsoft purchases their handset division. It’s not known it Nokia will reenter the set top box market.